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Revista Médica del Uruguay

On-line version ISSN 1688-0390


RIZZI, Milton. Bicentenario de la expedición de la vacuna antivariólica y su introducción en el río de la plata. Rev. Méd. Urug. [online]. 2007, vol.23, n.1, pp.7-18. ISSN 1688-0390.

Summary Smallpox was the most important epidemiological disease of mankind. It has caused more deaths than victims of all wars. Before vaccination in the end of the XVIII Century, the only way to prevent this affection was the dangerous and expensive variolization, with mortality rates of 2%. A daughter of the King of Spain, Charles IV (reign 1788-1808) suffered from smallpox. He decided to send a sanitary expedition to America and Philippines in order to vaccinate inhabitants of colonial areas. A group of four physicians, two surgeons, three nurses, and 22 children whose mission was to transfer smallpox vaccine arm to arm sailed from La Coruña in November 30th , 1803. The María Pita stopped to vaccinate at Canarias, Puerto Rico, Caracas and the coast of Venezuela. Later, in May 1804 the expedition was divided into two branches, the South American branch went to Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, headed by Dr. Joseph Salvany. The Central branch, leaded by Dr. Francisco Xavier de Balmis went through Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and California. In February, 1805, Balmis left Acapulco in the Manila and arrived in Philippines in April. He moved on the Portuguese Macao and Canton, a Chinese city and went back to Spain in 1806, arrived at Lisbon in August 14th. Smallpox vaccination arrived at the Rio de la Plata in July 5th, 1805 in the Rosa del Rio. Viruela was eradicated in 1978. Francisco Xavier de Balmis, the heroic physician vaccinated more than 250 thousands people, most of them children, all over the world.


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